BARBARA CAIRNS AGAINST TVNZ

Case Number: 3293

Council Meeting: JULY 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: TVNZ

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Headlines and Captions
Photographs and Graphics

Ruling Categories: Misleading

Overview

On 27 May 2022, TVNZ published a story on its 1 News website about a visit to the KidsCan charity by National Party Leader Christopher Luxon. The founder of KidsCan, Julie Chapman, said poverty was the worst it had been for families. Luxon was quoted as saying inflation was a major cause of financial struggles, and New Zealand needed better financial management. Higher incomes were National’s priority, as this would lift New Zealanders out of poverty, Luxon said. However, Chapman said housing was the main driver of current poverty levels.

Barbara Cairns complained that the story should have given greater emphasis to the comments of Chapman, and Luxon’s opinions should be based on facts. The journalist should have challenged Luxon’s view that inflation was the main cause of poverty. Chapman’s view that child poverty was the worst it had ever been also required qualification. The Salvation Army, for example, said some progress had been made on child poverty, and that the lack of social housing was one of the most significant causes of poverty.

The headline chosen was the most damaging to the Government, who were, by implication, criticised throughout, without any right of reply, Cairns said. The photograph used with the story, showed a young child lying in the street, but nowhere in the story did it say children were living on the street. The photograph was described as a file photograph, but was likely to have been manufactured as it was phoney and dishonest, Cairns said, designed to suggest that child poverty exists to a shocking extent in New Zealand today.

TVNZ replied that it was in the public interest for National’s perspective on child poverty to be presented. KidsCan’s views were also represented. Child poverty was a regular topic in the news and 1 News had discussed this in many other stories, which TVNZ listed, so that the issue was covered in a balanced way. TVNZ noted that KidsCan, the Salvation Army and Child Poverty Action Group all stated the situation was desperate for children in poverty.

The headline, Child poverty level worst in 18 years – KidsCan, accurately and fairly conveyed the issue discussed, TVNZ said. The photograph was a generic stock image used to illustrate the story without breaching anyone’s privacy, and the label showing it came from istock.com would ensure consumers knew it was a generic image and not an actual homeless child in New Zealand.

The Media Council notes that this is a short item among a mass of stories about child poverty. Principle One: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance states in part: “Exceptions may apply for long-running issues where every side of an issue or argument cannot reasonably be repeated on every occasion.” The Council believes this story is a part of the coverage of a long-running issue – the causes of child poverty – so an exhaustive examination of every aspect is not required. It covers the views of two key players, KidsCan and the Leader of the Opposition, Christopher Luxon. The views expressed are their opinions, and clearly shown to be so. Luxon’s view that inflation is a major cause of the problem is challenged by the KidsCan spokesperson, so any requirements for balance and fairness are met.

The headline accurately sums up KidsCan’s views and is entirely appropriate. While the photograph is not ideal, as it does not represent the New Zealand situation, the Council believes it was clear that this was a generic image as it was labelled as a file image and sourced to istock.com. No principles were breached.

Decision: There are insufficient grounds to proceed.

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